Study Guide

To His Coy Mistress Mortality

By Andrew Marvell

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Mortality, otherwise known as "death," gets a whole stanza in Andrew Marvell’s classic from the 1650s. The speaker presents his vision of the afterlife. While beautiful in terms of the that words the speaker uses to describe it, his vision is miles away from hopeful. He thinks that dying is the ultimate lack of control. It’s not as big of a downer as it sounds like. The speaker is a very witty guy, and his treatment of death makes for some of the most entertaining pick-up lines since John Donne’s "The Flea."

Questions About Mortality

  1. Does the speaker want to be immortal? What makes you think what you do? Is the narrator afraid of dying? If so, how do you know? If not, why not?
  2. What do you think of the speaker’s description of the afterlife? Do you have an idea of the afterlife? If so, what is it? If not, why don’t you have one?
  3. Do you think that it’s important to conceive of the afterlife? Why, or why not?
  4. What are some examples of how the afterlife is represented in movies, other poems, or books? Do any of these seem similar to the speaker’s vision?

Chew on This

By telling the mistress what it will be like when she’s dead (something she can’t verify), instead of telling her about her actual life (something she can verify), the speaker destroys his argument.

Time and death become synonymous in Andrew Marvell’s "To His Coy Mistress."

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